Tobacco Imports Company (TIC) has responded to claims by British American Tobacco Australia (BATA) that some of TIC’s brands don’t comply with the Tobacco Plain Packaging Act.
In an open letter to Convenience World, TIC Director Michael Kollaras wrote: “TIC’s strict quality-control policy is and always has been in place to ensure that every product fully complies with all applicable laws and regulations”.
Mr Kollaras says this includes all the TIC brands in BATA’s letter: Cleveland, Brooklyn, King Street and Regent Street.
BATA’s interest ‘surprising’
“It is surprising that BATA would take such strong interest in the strict enforcement of Australian tobacco plain packaging given that BATA strongly lobbied against the legislation, unsuccessfully challenged it in the High Court, and supported an unsuccessful challenge to its validity before the World Trade Organisation,” Mr Kollaras continued. “As a result, we are led to believe that BATA’s primary motivation is to aggressively defend its market position.
“BATA also draws attention to rules and regulations relating to tobacco duty and excise in its letter. For absolutely clarity, all products distributed by TIC are imported lawfully, with all taxes and duties paid.
“Additionally, we have been informed by a number of customers that BATA representatives have suggested that stocking the above TIC brands (which BATA inaccurately refers to as non-compliant) would be in breach of BATA’s trading terms.
“Please be informed: should any organisation threaten to decrease or cease your trading terms by simply stocking a competitors’ product is anti-competitive conduct, which breaches Section 47 of the Australian Competition and Consumer Act and will result in serious penalties. TIC fully intends on discussing this issue with the ACCC.”
TIC says it’s also surprised that the activities of a “small Australian family-owned” company would be a concern for a “giant” like BATA.
“We can only assume that this is due to our renowned product quality, pricing and service,” Mr Kollaras wrote.
BATA denies anti-competitive conduct
A spokesperson for BATA told Convenience World that the company “denies it has engaged in anti-competitive conduct”.
“What BATA has done, is draw retailers’ attention to a determination by the Commonwealth Department of Health regarding the packaging of tobacco products that do not comply with the Tobacco Plain Packaging Act.
“There are potentially serious consequences, for both suppliers and retailers, for selling tobacco products that do not comply with the requirements of the Act.
“BATA has invested considerable time, effort and resources to ensure our products are compliant with the law and we expect the same of our competitors.”